Sixty Foot Road intersection on track for spring opening

The State Highway Administration project to erect new traffic signals at Sixty Foot Road in Pittsville, with left turn arrows on both the eastbound and westbound sides of Route 50, is progressing well and is expected to be completed soon.

The $3.14 million undertaking began last August, following many accidents during the years, several fatal, including the 2010 crash that killed Wicomico County Deputy State’s Attorney Sam Vincent.

The last fatal accident there was in 2015.

“Improvements at Sixty Foot Road are on track to open this spring,” Bob Rager, District Community Liaison for the SHA, in the Baltimore office, told the Salisbury Independent.

“We’ve got a few things left to do — signal activation and testing — but for the most part we’re just waiting on spring to get good temperatures for the final surface paving.

“If nature cooperates we should have the intersection fully operational by May,” Rager said.

Charlie Gischlar, who handles public relations for the SHA, said the infrastructure is up and guardrail is in place.

“All the median work is complete. There will be basic landscaping there, grassy with a few bushes. We are trying to encourage the natural Maryland wildlife to entice pollinators.

“We are waiting for the temperatures to get consistently 50 degrees or above to start doing the milling, paving and restriping of that intersection, then we will put up the signal and turn it on,” he said.

Three days before the signal becomes active, it will flash to alert drivers of the impending change.

“This project is running so smoothly. It’s a good project. It will be well in place before the start of summer,” Gischlar said.

Before the decision to put in a traffic light, rumble strips approaching the intersection were improved and stop signs made larger.

Then, county officials asked state officials for a more detailed study to determine how it could be made safer, especially since 31,000 vehicles travel that portion of Route 50 every day, with higher numbers in the summer. More than 5,000 vehicles travel through the intersection every day.

Rager described the intersection as “generally OK,” but said it is “one of those where there are a lot of crashes, for reasons still unclear.”

“There is a lot of driver error there. Most crashes seem to be traffic going east, then turning left into Pittsville. That’s where errors in judgment occur, when drivers are sitting at that median,” he said. Speculation includes that, at certain times of day, it’s difficult to see because of shadows caused by trees there, he said.

During the current improvement project, new left turn lanes are being built and acceleration and deceleration lanes added, as well as stormwater management controls.

“We are very cognizant that having traffic lights, that stopping traffic in the summer, even for a couple minutes, can back things up, but we will time that to have maximum green time,” Gischlar said.

“What we do is — and we do this for all new traffic signals to familiarize motorists — we will put the lights on flash mode three days in advance of putting them into operation. The main highway will get flashing amber and Fifty Foot Road will get flashing red. And, we will put up portable message signs saying there is a new traffic light,” Gischlar explained.

Extended acceleration and deceleration lanes are being built on both sides of Route 50.

The project, being completed by contractor David A. Bramble of Chestertown, “will improve intersection safety and efficiency by signalizing all movements and providing sweeping left turn lanes from U.S. 50 to Sixty Foot Road,” Gischlar said.

He didn’t have statistics for 2016 to 2018, but said in 2015, there were four injury crashes and one property damage accident at the intersection, plus the fatal. Five of six crashes occurred while drivers were turning left, on either side.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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